Great White Pelican

(Pelecanus onocrotalus)


Great White Pelican IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

This rather large bird is similar to its cousin, the Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus). However, the former is distinguishable from the Dalmatian pelican by its totally white plumage (with the exeption of the big black wing feathers, visible in flight from beneath).

Body lenght is 1.40 to 1.75 m, with a wingspan of 2.70 to 3.60 m. It can weigh between 5 and 9 kg. Males posses a tuft of feathers on the backside of their head. Males are larger than females and their beak is longer.

Great White Pelicans are gregarious birds and large flocks often fish togther encircling and trapping shoals of fish in shallow water where they easily can scoop up fish in the skin pouch below the bill. They are excellent swimmers and also good fliers.

Great White Pelicans usually nest in colonies situated on an island, or remote parts of a large pan. The nest is a stick structure placed on the ground. The female lays mostly 2, occasionally 3-4 eggs weighing between 160 and 200g, which are incubated for 29-36 days. The young are cared for by both parents. They are able to fly when they are 10 - 12 weeks old.

Did you know?
that the yellow gular pouch benath the bill can hold 13 litre liquids or can be filled with up to four kgs fish?


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Pelecanus onocrotalus
Name (English) Great White Pelican
Name (French) Pélican blanc
Name (German) Rosapelikan
Name (Spanish) Pelícano común
Local names Afrikaans: Wit-pelikaan
Greek: Podopelkános
Hungarian: Rószás gödény
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Palearctic populations only: Appendix I Western palearctic populations only: Appendix II Included in AEWA




Range The species breeds patchily from SW Europe to WC Asia and in subsaharan Africa.
Habitat Freshwater wetlands, estuaries
Wild population Approx. 4,350-4,800 in Black Sea and Mediterranean; 6,000-9,000 individuals in SE Asia and S Asia (2002) and 50 individuals in E. Asia (2005)(Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 781 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Great White Pelican


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 21 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Vladimír Motyčka

Why do zoos keep this animal

The great white pelican is not an endangered species. Zoos keep it primarily for educational reasons, because of evolutionary adaptation in morphology and behaviour to fish catching in social groups. It is also a good ambassador species for wetland conservation and for promoting the African-Eurasian Waterfowl Agreement.